Poll: Majority of Voters Say Clinton Won First 2016 Presidential Debate
Republican U.S. presidential nominee Donald Trump and Democratic U.S. presidential nominee Hillary Clinton greet one another as they take the stage for their first debate at Hofstra University in Hempstead, New York on September 26, 2016.JONATHAN ERNST / Reuters
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A majority of likely voters (52 percent) who either watched the debate or said they followed debate coverage in the news said Hillary Clinton won the first presidential debate on Monday night, according to the NBC News|SurveyMonkey Debate Reaction Poll.
Just 21 percent of likely voters thought Donald Trump won the debate, and 26 percent said neither candidate won the debate.
The poll was conducted online from September 26 immediately following the debate through September 27, 2016.
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The first face-off of the 2016 presidential election cycle broke debate viewership records and about three-quarters of respondents said they watched the debate live. Though voters agreed Clinton was the clear victor, a majority of voters overall said their opinions of either candidate did not change as a result of the debate.
Clinton, however, seemed to boost her image among her own party as a result of her performance — 50 percent of Democrats and Democratic-leaners said their opinion of her changed for the better as a result of Monday night’s debate.
Trump did not have quite the same effect on his own party. About a quarter (26 percent) of likely Republican and Republican-leaning voters said their opinion of him changed for the better as a result of Monday’s debate. A large majority — 68 percent — said their opinion of him did not change.
Among likely Independent voters who do not lean toward either party, a majority said their opinion of Clinton and Trump did not change as a result of the debate (66 percent and 67 percent, respectively). Slightly more Independents said their impression of Clinton improved as a result (16 percent) than Trump (9 percent).
Clinton — who seemed to have a high point when talking about Trump’s treatment of women — also improved her image among likely women voters. Nearly a third of women overall (30 percent) said their opinion of Clinton changed for the better after the debate, while just 11 percent said their opinion of Trump changed for the better. Twenty-seven percent of women overall said their opinion of Trump changed for the worse, and just 13 percent of likely women voters said their opinion of Clinton changed for the worse.
Clinton received high marks for appearing presidential, confident and composed during the debate, while Trump received some criticism for seeming impatient and unprepared. Overall, a slight majority of likely voters said that they agree that Clinton has the temperament to serve effectively (53 percent), while a sizable majority said that Trump does not have the temperament to serve effectively as president (63 percent).
Among voters of his own party, 27 percent said he does not have the temperament to serve effectively as president.
Just 8 percent of Democrats and Democratic-leaners said Clinton does not have the temperament to serve effectively.
Among women voters overall, 69 percent said Trump does not have the personality and temperament to serve, including 97 percent of Democratic and Democratic-leaning women, 80 percent of Independent women who do not lean towards either party and 26 percent of Republican and Republican-leaning women.
Clinton did better in this category with women voters as well. Overall, 59 percent of likely women voters said Clinton does have the temperament to serve — including 92 percent of Democratic and Democratic-leaning women, 51 percent of independent women and 13 percent of Republican and Republican-leaning women.
The NBC News|SurveyMonkey Debate Reaction poll was conducted online immediately following the debate on September 26 through September 27, 2016 among a national sample of 7,541 adults who are likely to vote. Respondents for this non-probability survey were selected from the nearly three million people who take surveys on the SurveyMonkey platform each day. Results have an error estimate of plus or minus 1.6 percentage points. For full results and methodology, click here.
John Lapinski is director of the NBC News Elections Unit.